By Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
HAVANA, CUBA (ANS – Aug. 9, 2017) — Pastor Ramon Rigal of the Church of God in Cuba, appeared in court on August 8th, where he was informed that he will be allowed to resume his work as a church leader, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (www.csw.org.uk).
CSW reports that on April 25th, Pastor Rigal was sentenced to one year in a correctional facility, while his wife was sentenced to one year of house arrest for their decision to home-school their children.
In its report, CSW said the couple felt that state school teaching emphasized a Marxist-Leninist atheist ideology which regularly demeans Christianity and Christians. Pastor Rigal’s daughter had also reported being bullied at school and punched in the stomach by another student.
The pastor’s sentence was reduced to house arrest on July 6on the provision that his children return to state school in September. He was also barred from serving as a church leader and assigned a new job checking for mosquitoes in the water supply of local houses.
While he will now be allowed to resume his work as a church leader, the pastor and his wife are still under house arrest. The situation regarding their children’s education also remains unresolved despite the fact they have since been granted scholarships to, and enrolled in, an online course through an international Christian school.
CSW’s Senior Advocate for the Americas, Anna Lee Stangl, said: “While we welcome the news that Pastor Rigal will be able to continue leading his church, he and his wife are still under house arrest. We continue to call for the unwarranted sentences that he and his wife received to be cancelled and for the government to cease its harassment of the family and their church.”
Pastor Ramon Rigal’s case features in CSW’s new report on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in Cuba, which details several other cases in which the family members of church leaders and activists are singled out for harassment and discrimination by the authorities.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organization working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.
“This is a far better outcome than I had expected. Based on my understanding of how Cuba treats its dissidents, I was increasingly certain that Ramón was going to lose and go to jail. I was delighted to hear that the Cuban appeals court refused to impose this manifestly unjust punishment,” said Mike Donnelly HSLDA Director of Global Outreach at www.hslda.org about the Cuban court’s earlier decision. (The Home School Legal Defense Association was founded in March, 1983).
Donnelly said Ramón and his family have expressed their gratitude for the outpouring of support from others around the world. “I am very grateful to everyone who has been praying and especially to HSLDA. International opinion has been key in this victory. . . . My wife is relieved that I will not be locked up, but September will soon be here and the local authorities will surely try to force me to put my children in school,” Pastor Ramon told HSLDA.
Ramón originally pulled his children out of the Cuban public schools because they were being bullied and because he was seriously concerned by what the schools were teaching them. He tried repeatedly to work things out with local authorities, but they refused to listen. Ultimately Ramón and his wife, Adya, were arrested in February and sentenced in April.
HSLDA has been working to support the Rigal family and to help overturn this unjust sentence. “We held a rally at the Cuban Embassy in May, and started a petition calling on Cuba to respect the pastor’s right to homeschool his children. The petition generated over 30,000 signatures,” Donnelly said.
Donnelly stated Ramón has expressed his firm commitment to continue the fight for freedom for his children and others to quietly educate their children at home in accordance with their convictions.
“I will continue to fight and not give in to their impositions and I will not take the children to school,” Rigal told him. “This fight must be continued until they let me educate my children quietly in my house or let me leave the country. They want to impose their injustice and how to make an example out of me so that others do not follow my example of homeschooling. If I am not allowed to homeschool here in Cuba, I wish the authorities would let me leave the country to go somewhere that I may.”
HSLDA said it commends Ramón and Adya for their courage. “We will continue to call on the Cuban government to allow its citizens to homeschool in keeping with its international human rights obligations. Not jailing Ramón surely qualifies as better treatment—but the regime should also acknowledge the Rigal family’s right to homeschool their children.”
HSLDA said home education is the fastest growing form of education in the world because it is effective. Research shows that children who are homeschooled perform with excellence academically and socially. Home education is not a subversive threat to society and must be permitted by governments as an appropriate exercise of parental rights and a legitimate means for delivering an education to children.
Donnelly concluded: “Thank you to all of you who have already taken action on behalf of the Rigals. If you haven’t signed our petition yet, we encourage you to do that today. You can also visit our page on the Rigals’ case for updates on this story.”
For further information or to arrange interviews with CSW on this story, please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Senior Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.csw.org.uk .
You may contact HSLDA through the contact form on its website at: https://secure.hslda.org/hslda/feedback.asp
Photo captions: 1) Pastor Rigal and his wife Ayda. 2) Rallies have been held in their support. 3) Michael Ireland.
About the Writer: Michael Ireland is a volunteer internet journalist serving as Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as an Ordained Minister, and an award-winning local cable-TV program host/producer who has served with ASSIST Ministries and written for ANS since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. You may follow Michael on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Michael-Ireland-Media-Missionary-234951783610/ and on Twitter at @Michael_ASSIST. Please consider helping Michael cover his expenses in bringing news of the Persecuted Church, by logging-on to: https://actintl.givingfuel.com/ireland-michael
** You may republish this or any of or ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net ). Please also tell your friends and colleagues that they can get a complimentary subscription to ANS by going to the website and signing up there.